1. Black art and activism flourished during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920's and early 30's, such as jazz, blues, poetry, dance, musical theater, and this . . . "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (The manifesto of the Harlem Renaissance). The Harlem Renaissance manifesto was one of race consciousness, of pride and understanding of a black African heritage, artistic independence, and specifically of what it meant to be black in America.
2. Phillis Wheatley - - Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. The first African-American poet and first African-American woman to publish a book.
Many white colonists found it difficult to believe that an African slave was writing excellent poetry. Wheatley had to defend her authorship of her poetry in court in 1772. She was examined by a group of Boston luminaries, including John Erving, Reverend Charles Chauncey, John Hancock, Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts, and his lieutenant governor Andrew Oliver. They concluded she had written the poems ascribed to her and signed an attestation, which was included in the preface of this book.
3. Nella Larsen - - Passing, documents the historical realities of Harlem in the 1920s and shed a bright light on the social world of the black bourgeoisie and a penetrating analysis of black female psychology. The story takes place during the Harlem Renaissance and it is a quick, eye-opening read.
4. James Weldon Johnson -- The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Anyone interested at all in African American life from the 1880s to the 1930s, particularly as it was lived in New York City from about 1899 to the Harlem Renaissance. Though the title suggests otherwise, the book is not an autobiography but a novel. However, the book is based on the lives of people Johnson knew and from events in his own life.
Johnson's novel includes a great deal more than a consideration of race issues. The book offers an outstanding picture of life. The book has the spirit and feel of ragtime, which reached the height of its popularity during the years in which the book appeared. Johnson shows great appreciation for this product of American culture.
5. Paul Laurence Dunbar - - The Sport of the Gods
In this extraordinary novel, Paul Laurence Dunbar tells the story of a displaced Southern family's struggle to survive and prosper in early Harlem. "The Sport of the Gods" was one of the first novels to depict the harsh realities of ghetto life and the revolutionary truths it uncovered still resonate today.
6. W. E. B. Du Bois - - The Souls of Black Folk
The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of fourteen essays by brilliant African-American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois written 100 years ago, is a stirring and insightful look at the lives of the former slaves following Emancipation. It thoughtfully addresses nearly all aspects of life, from religion to prosperity (or lack thereof) to race relations, and how they were affected by the abolition of slavery. Some essays take a more historical view while others are nearly in the form of short stories. The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works to deal with sociology.
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